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La Rochelle France French Destinations

La Rochelle

You may have come across La Rochelle in the school French textbooks because the town is so stereotypically French, with red and white striped parasols decking the cafés along the old port, and also because it was saved from unsightly architectural 'innovations' in the 1970s by a forward thinking mayor.

La Rochelle is becoming increasingly chic and popular, especially since the university opened in 1993, and young people and families head there in droves during the summer months because of the nearby beaches. La Rochelle was the last French city to be liberated in 1945 and it had also suffered much during the 16th and 17th centuries when Cardinal Richelieu laid siege to it. It has been an important trading port since the 14th century, and the founders of Montreal set sail from La Rochelle in the 17th century.

Consider these pages for busses, trains and airport information.

The centre of La Rochelle is largely pedestrianized and safe from traffic, making it a pleasant place to stroll and see the 17th and 18th century architecture. The Vieux Port is the focal point and pleasure boats are moored next to a few fishing boats under the auspices of two towers, Tour de la Chaine to the west and Tour St Nicolas to the east. Leading from the Vieux Port to place de Verdun is the charming rue du Palais lined with 18th century houses, including the fine Palais de Justice and Hôtel de la Bourse on the left, and the Maison Henri II on rue des Augustins that now houses the tourist board. The Musée du Nouveau Monde (€3.20) on rue Fleuriau contains artefacts from La Rochelle's rich shipping history and trade with the Caribbean (in everything from sugar to slaves), and it is a fascinating collection.

Whether you are French Camping Holidays or staying in a hotel, you must book well in advance to secure a bed in La Rochelle from May right through to September. Places like the Hôtel de l'Océan at 36 cours des Dames (05 46 41 51 12) are ideally placed with views of the port costing from €55 70. Cheaper accommodation is available at the Francois I, 15 rue Bazoges (05 46 41 28 46), which has a walled courtyard and rooms from €30 40. As for eating, there is a wide choice of eateries available in the rue St Jean du Pérot, the rue du Port and rue St Sauveur areas, including wonderful fish restaurants like Le Bistrot de l'Entr'acte at 22 rue St Jean du Pérot (05 46 50 62 60) with a great €23.63 menu. Le St Sauveur at number 24 on the same street (05 466 41 18 16) has fish tanks to amuse the kids and fish dishes to please the parents on €10 20 menus.